Community language learning

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Community Language Learning




In the early seventies, Charles Curran developed a new education model he called "Counceling-Learning". This was essentially an example of an innovative model that primarily considered affective factors as paramount in the learning process. Drawing on Carl Rogers' view that learners were to be considered not as a class, but as a group, Curran'sphilosophy dictated that students were to be thought of as "clients" - their needs being addressed by a "councelor" in the form of the teacher. Brown (1994:59), in commenting on this approach also notes that "In order for any learning to take place ... what is first needed is for the members to interact in an interpersonal relationship in which students and teacher join together to facilitate learning ina context of valuing and prizing each indiviual in the group." Curran was best known for his extensive studies on adult learning, and some of the issues he tried to address were the threatening nature of a new learning situation to many adult learners and the anxiety created when students feared making "fools" of themselves. Curran believed that the counceling-learning model would help lower theinstinctive defenses adult learners throw up, that the anxiety caused by the educational context could be decreased through the support of an interactive community of fellow learners. Another important goal was for the teacher to be perceived as an empathetic helping agent in the learning process, not a threat.

The Counceling-Learning educational model was also applied to language learning,and in this form it became known as Community Language Learning. Based on most of the principles above, Community Language Learning seeks to encourage teachers to see their students as "whole" persons, where their feelings, intellect, interpersonal relationships, protective reactions, and desire to learn are addressed and balanced. Students typically sit in a circle, with the teacher (ascouncelor) outside the ring. They use their first language to develop an interpersonal relationship based on trust with the other students. When a student wants to say something, they first say it in their native language, which the teacher then translates back to them using the target language. The student then attempts to repeat the English used by the teacher, and then a student can respond usingthe same process. This technique is used over a considerable period of time, until students are able to apply words in the new language without translation, gradually moving from a situtation of dependence on the teacher-councelor to a state of independence.

OBJECTIVES
The Community Language Learning method does not just attempt to teach students how to use another language communicatively, italso tries to encourage the students to take increasingly more responsibility for their own learning, and to "learn about their learning", so to speak. Learning in a nondefensive manner is considered to be very important, with teacher and student regarding each other as a "whole person" where intellect and ability are not separated from feelings. The initial struggles with learning the newlanguage are addressed by creating an environment of mutual support, trust and understanding between both learner-clients and the teacher-councelor.

Key Features

The Community Language Learning method involves some of the following features:

(1) Students are to be considered as "learner-clients" and the teacher as a "teacher-councelor".

(2) A relationship of mutual trust and support isconsidered essential to the learning process.

(3) Students are permitted to use their native language, and are provided with translations from the
teacher which they then attempt to apply.

(4) Grammar and vocabulary are taught inductively.

(5) "Chunks" of target language produced by the students are recorded and later listened to - they
are also transcribed with native...
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